CITY NEWS SERVICE
CARSON — The stretch of the westbound Gardena (91) Freeway that runs through Carson was renamed the Rudolph B. Davila Memorial Freeway on Friday in honor of a World War II Medal of Honor recipient who was a teacher and counselor in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 30 years.
Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Watts, Davila was a U.S. Army staff sergeant assigned to Company H, 7th Infantry on May 28, 1944, when he risked death to provide heavy weapons support for a beleaguered rifle company near Artena, Italy.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Davila’s machine gunners were caught on an exposed hillside by heavy grazing fire from a well-entrenched Germany force and were reluctant to risk putting their guns into action. Davila crawled 50 yards to the nearest machine gun, set it up alone and opened fire on the enemy.
In order to observe the effect of his fire, Davila fired from the kneeling position, ignoring the enemy fire that struck the tripod and passed between his legs.
Ordering a gunner to take over, Davila crawled forward to a vantage point and directed the firefight with hand and arm signals until both hostile machine guns were silenced. Bringing his three remaining machine guns into action, Davila drove the enemy to a reserve position 200 yards to the rear.
When Davila received a painful wound in a leg, he dashed to a burned tank and despite the crash of bullets on the hull, engaged a second enemy force from the tank’s turret.
Dismounting, he advanced 130 yards in short rushes, crawled 20 yards and charged into an enemy-held house to eliminate the defending force of five with a hand grenade and rifle fire.
Climbing to the attic, he straddled a large shell hole in the wall and opened fire on the enemy. Although the walls of the house were crumbling, he continued to fire until he had destroyed two more machine guns.
Davila’s “intrepid actions brought desperately needed heavy weapons support to a hard-pressed rifle company and silenced four machine gunners, which forced the enemy to abandon their prepared positions,” the citation read.
Davila received a battlefield commission to second lieutenant and was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army’s second-highest honor. His wife, Harriet, lobbied Army officials for years to award her husband the Medal of Honor. A captain in the rifle company had said he would recommend Davila for the Medal of Honor.
In 1996, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) secured a congressionally mandated review of records for Asian Americans who had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, as only two of the more than 40,000 Asian Americans who served in World War II received the Medal of Honor.
Following an extensive review, Davila’s medal was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He received the medal from then-President Bill Clinton, along with 21 other World War II servicemen of Asian descent, in a June 21, 2000, White House ceremony.
“I worked alongside Mr. Davila here at Peary Middle School for many years and never knew he was a war hero,” retired teacher Edward J. Schlossman said at the renaming ceremony at the Gardena school. “He was a humble man.”
Schlossman pushed for the freeway renaming and funded the highway signage in Davila’s honor.
The westbound portion of the Gardena Freeway between Central Avenue and Figueroa Street was renamed for Davila because of Senate Concurrent Resolution 107, authored by Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), whose district includes Gardena.
Davila’s military service was ended by a shrapnel wound during a battle in 1944 in the Vosges Mountains of France. Davila then went to USC, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Davila died in 2002 at the age of 85 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.